Statement on Confrontation in South Orange

We are aware and deeply concerned about an incident with clear racial overtones that occurred in South Orange Village between a woman of color and her father who were made to feel unwelcome by an employee of a local business while he was working. The impact of this inappropriate and hurtful behavior by the employee has reverberated through our community, as have other incidents like this in the past. As an organization that has been called upon numerous times to work towards solutions over the years, we know that the impact on people of color of such inappropriate actions and the community as a whole is deeply felt, regardless of intention. We believe that, as in other instances of similar behavior, our community and those harmed would best be served by a sincere apology for the behavior, followed by training on anti-racism, equity, and bias. Our board will be discussing the role our organization can play in improving community relationships in the ways we have in the past, both publicly and privately through training, dialogue, and facilitation of resolutions.

If we are to be a racially integrated and truly inclusive community that is welcoming to all, we must find ways to assure people of color who live in, consider moving to, visit, and work in our towns, that they are safe and welcome and that we do not hide from having difficult conversations when that trust is broken. We know that dismantling racism must address how day-to-day acts of racism can come from individuals who believe themselves to be allies. And we recognize that community relationships and loyalties are complex. But creating a community that is safe for all requires that we address acts of racism each and every time. As we adapt to our new normal of social distancing during the pandemic, we will continue to explore methods to have these challenging conversations and bring about solutions.

Kelly Quirk, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Nancy Gagnier, Executive Director

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